Women's Health and Wellness

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Prevention and Wellness

Women, who are key in maintaining healthy families, access the health system more than men, both for themselves and on behalf of their children.  Many become pregnant and give birth, a significant health event, then typically become their child’s primary caregiver,

a role that greatly influences household health overall. Elder and long-term care issues affect women more often because they live longer; have higher rates of disability and chronic health problems; and lower incomes than men on average, which puts them at greater need for state and community resources, such as Medicaid.  Across her lifespan, a woman’s health status matters to herself, her family and to state budgets. Legislators are wrestling with tight budgets and changing health laws—including the realities of implementing federal health reform under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). If women’s needs are overlooked in these discussions, however, states lose important opportunities to improve the health of residents and gain partners in creating a healthier society.

Prevention and wellness initiatives protect and improve health for both the entire community and certain groups.  To prevent disease and promote healthy behaviors, policymakers may consider initiatives related to immunizations, nutrition and oral health. One of the most alarming statistics is the increase in death during childbirth.  Prenatal and Maternity Care. Ensuring that women receive prenatal care—regular check-ups with a provider that include screening for conditions such as gestational diabetes or birth defects, monitoring for potential complications, and education to encourage healthy behaviors such as smoking cessation and healthy eating—can reduce the risk of premature delivery, low birth-weight and infant mortality. Infants of women who receive late or no prenatal care are twice as likely to have a low birth-weight, compared to infants of women who receive prenatal care during the first trimester.  A 2004 study by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services showed that the average cost of Medicaid services for the first four years of a very low birth-weight baby’s life was $61,902, compared to $7,260 for a baby born at normal weight. The ACA requires private insurance policies to include coverage of essential health benefits for maternity and pregnancy care. In addition, the ACA eliminated cost-sharing requirements for tobacco cessation counseling and pharmacotherapy treatments for pregnant Medicaid beneficiaries as of 2010. Substance abuse and mental health treatment services must be available in private insurance plans and Medicaid in 2014. The ACA also included $1.5 billion in grants to states over five years to offer voluntary home visiting services to families with young children to improve outcomes in health, education, child abuse and family well-being.  Home visiting programs provide new parents with a range of services by trained professionals, including in-home education and support from pregnancy through the first years of an infant’s life.

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